Friday, February 22, 2008

It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change!

I have a confession to make. I'm a bit embarrassed about it, which in Luneray logic, makes perfect sense to post on my blog. There's no shame liked shared shame.

I have joined Weight Watchers.

There, I said it. I'm not a fat activist, but I've long come to terms with my weight. I don't even have any particular desire to be thin, and still firmly believe that I am one of the luckiest people in the history of humankind to live in an era and place where food is plentiful and cheap and hunger is truly rare. (Yes, there is involuntary hunger in the United States, which is an abomination.)

While I never expect to weigh 120 lbs (nor do I want to), I am heavier than I want to be. I notice it and its slowing me down. It's like that that one extra library book in the backpack. The pack may be full, and you notice the weight, but it's not a burden. But then you add a few more books, and suddenly the pack feels like a real load. You notice it. It's heavy enough to slow you down, make you sweat. Add a few more books and now you don't want to carry it more than 1/2 block.

I have to admit that I've been toying with "weight loss" for awhile, but wasn't going to commit to it until I was ready. There were little things that pushed me along, like discovering that my baggy pants weren't quite as baggy anymore, and that knitting a sweater for my size takes a really freaking long time. But the final straw was the my fantastic Icelandic road sign T shirt shrunk in the wash and doesn't fit anymore. I want to wear that shirt again, dammit!

I've entered into a friendly competition with my supervisor. It was actually my idea because she's been bemoaning the fact that she's having a hard time keeping on the Weight Watchers plan (she started up several months ago and has lost a lot of weight). She is really competitive and I am not. However, because I am not competitive, I rarely join in a contest unless I feel I have a pretty good chance of winning. :P The stakes aren't high--the "loser" takes the "winner" to a movie.

So, I'm in my second week. The program has changed substantially since I was on it in the early 90s. (I have to admit that part of my cynicism toward weight loss is that I have never, ever met a single person who has done any plan just once.) Before, their focus was on food types and servings. Food was divided into fat, fruit, vegetables, dairy, starch, and protein and you had a certain number of servings from each group that you had to eat each day, plus you got a certain number of "optional calories" each week that you could use as you chose. I liked the idea behind this because it did focus more on nutrition and eating a balanced diet.

However, I quit going to the program though because the meetings seemed to focus more on pushing WW foods than on eating healthy. Ok, so what if eating WW chocolate cake counts as 1 bread serving and 10 optional calories? How about teaching us about ways to curb our need for sweets in other ways? I also refuse to eat "fake food" as part of my normal diet. If I want chocolate cake, I'm going to splurge on the good stuff!

But now the WW program has more "economic" focus. Every food has a point value assigned to it, and each person gets a certain number of points they have to consume each day. The daily point value is determined by age, gender, initial weight, and average activity level. So, like a checkbook, you debit your daily points consumed. Each person also gets an additional 35 points each week to use or not. Plus you can get "activity points" which credit against your daily point total. Yesterday, I consumed 1.5 more points than my daily target, but I earned three activity points that day, so I balanced out. (See what I mean by "economic"?)

The thing I like about this program is that nothing is forbidden. I can truly eat anything I want, as long as I stay within the point goal. (Theoretically, I can eat nothing but three Starbucks cinnamon rolls per day and still lose weight. It's tempting, let me tell you.) Points are calculated based on fiber, calories, and fat per serving.

I've only started the second week, and have only been to two meetings, but I am concerned that the focus isn't nutritional balance but only points. The program's supporting materials give lots of recipe suggestions, which tend to be balanced but no nutritional guidance in the meetings themselves. Protein foods tend to be high point value and I wonder how many people try to cut out proteins and end up so hungry that they give up?

I am not going to deny myself anything. I am not going to eat fat-free anything unless it comes that way naturally. Nor am I going to eat nothing but green salads, and carrot and celery sticks. I do like green salads, but not exclusively. My first week, I ate a starbucks cinnamon roll (10 points), had a bubble tea (8 points), as well as mochi ice cream and a beer (no, not together. That'd be disgusting.) and still managed to lose a few pounds. I ended up going out to restaurants more than I expected and kind of fell of the wagon, but I did seem to learn something. I had only one beer even though I wanted a second. I chose chili and salad instead of burger and fries. And I was honest with myself. I kept track of everything I ate.

It's a start.

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